Drugs sting could mean pub closures
TWO St Neots pubs risk losing their licences after undercover police officers bought nearly 40 cocaine and ecstasy deals in a five-week sting operation last year. The police also complained of assaults, thefts, violence, under-age drinking, large-scale di
TWO St Neots pubs risk losing their licences after undercover police officers bought nearly 40 cocaine and ecstasy deals in a five-week sting operation last year.
The police also complained of assaults, thefts, violence, under-age drinking, large-scale disturbances and lack of supervision at the Wrestlers Hotel, in New Street, and the King's Head, in South Street. Both hotels are owned by Burton-on-Trent-based Punch Taverns.
In the district's first test of the Licensing Act 2003, which came fully into effect in November 2005, Chief Superintendent Mick Gipp has asked Huntingdonshire District Council to review the two pubs' premises licences. The council has power to revoke them completely, suspend them, demand a new supervisor is installed or change licence conditions.
The police say the two pubs have failed to discharge the four objectives of the new Act - prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of nuisance and protection of children from harm.
The owners and operators of the pubs and people with homes and businesses nearby have 28 days to comment before a licensing sub-committee determines the application. There is a right of appeal to Huntingdonshire magistrates.
"We shall see now the potential for what the Act can do," HDC's licensing officer, Greg Peck, said.
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Ch Supt Gipp lists seven class A drug deals that allegedly took place at the Wrestlers in October and November last year. In total they involved nearly four grammes of cocaine.
In addition, a woman was allegedly "glassed in the head" when no door supervisors were present, and police had wider concerns about supervision.
They allege that the "designated premises supervisor", William Hughes, used to hold licenses for both premises. The current supervisor at the Wrestlers is James Lumley, partner of Mr Hughes's daughter. It seems Ms Hughes is left in charge of the Wrestlers on Friday and Saturday nights, while Mr Lumley is in charge of the King's Head, police said.
The five-week "test purchase" sting at the King's Head last autumn netted 22 cocaine deals, involving more than 13 grammes of the drug, and 10 ecstasy sales to undercover officers, totalling 84 tablets.
In four pages of allegations summarised for the council, Ch Supt Gipp listed 40 instances of actual or suspected class A drug deals on the premises or in the courtyard, including one instance of lines of coke being openly snorted from a pub table.
Police said there were also assaults on door supervisors and members of the public, thefts - mostly of handbags and mobile phones, large-scale disturbances and fights involving up to 30 people, under-age drinking, drunkenness, and a claim of sexual assault on an under-age female.
Both pubs had failed to pass CCTV footage to investigating officers, when it was asked for, Ch Supt Gipp complained.
A spokesman for Punch Taverns told The Hunts Post: "We are requesting a meeting with the police in advance of the licensing hearing about the Wrestlers and Kings Head, as both Punch and the licensee are keen to resolve these issues.
"Both venues are already taking steps to promote drug awareness with staff, as well as carrying out risk assessments to improve surveillance on the premises and increase CCTV coverage.
"Also, the Kings Head door staff and entrance policy have been changed to enforce underage drinking laws.
"We would be happy to discuss any suggestions for further improvements with the police or licensing authority.